‘Garbage’: As Congress fails to act, Missouri radiation victims’ hope for federal compensation runs out on Friday

The atomic clock is ticking down to Friday, as Josh Hawley waits for the House to start stirring.

The 1990 Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA), which provides continued victims of radiation with compensation for dire illness from exposure to WWII and Cold War-era nuclear waste, expires Friday.

Such waste was haphazardly buried and stored in the St. Louis region, and has demonstrably made residents in the region seriously ill.

Yet, the U.S. House is inexplicably sitting on a Senate-passed bill championed by Missouri’s Sen. Hawley that would extend RECA — and expand it to include heretofore neglected victims in Missouri and elsewhere.

Hawley is glad House Speaker Mike Johnson pulled a competing RECA reauthorization bill that would have “gutted” the compensation. But Hawley is frustrated the House won’t take up his bill, which passed handily in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Why won’t the House act?

“Great question,” an audibly frustrated Hawley lamented Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Heartlander. “This is the question that the Speaker and House leadership need to answer. They’re just doing nothing. I can’t figure out what they do over there in the House, but right now they’re doing nothing. Nothing at all. 

“This is not a partisan issue, but it sure as heck is a Missouri issue. And the people of Missouri who’ve been poisoned by their own government here – that’s we’re talking about: their own government – they deserve for the government to make it right, clean it up, help with the medical bills. That’s what ought to happen. The House needs to approve it. They need to do it now.”

The Heartlander asked Hawley if he expects additional bipartisan support for his bill if the House takes it up.

“Oh, heavens yes. Oh my gosh, yes,” he said. 

“Remember, it passed in the Senate with 70 votes. It’s been bipartisan the whole time. So, you bet – I absolutely know Democrats will support this. Of course, Republicans support it. Missouri Republicans support it because we understand that the federal government is always doing stupid, terrible stuff and trying to get away with it. 

“Every conservative knows this. It’s like a bedrock conservative principle: You cannot trust the federal government. This is just another instance of that. The federal government poisoned all of these people in Missouri – in St. Louis, in St. Charles, in the region – lied about it for years, and now wants to be off the hook and now says, ‘Oh, well, somebody else’s problem.’ 

“The government does this garbage all the time. We’ve got to hold them accountable.”

What was wrong with the bill that Johnson withdrew – after Missouri radiation victims and Missouri Rep. Ann Wagner implored him to do so?

“Well, what makes it bad is that it did absolutely nothing for Missouri or for anybody else exposed to nuclear radiation,” Hawley explains. “It’s the dirtiest bill possible. If you leave Missouri completely contaminated with nuclear radiation, and if you say to the people of Missouri, ‘No, we’re not going to compensate you, we’re not going to help you with your health care bills, you’re on your own,’ that’s not a clean bill. That’s a dirty bill. 

“That’s what Mike Johnson’s RECA bill would have done. It would have done nothing. Nothing for Missouri, nothing for any of our veterans who’ve been exposed to nuclear radiation. Zilch, zero, nothing. I’m glad that he pulled that bill. I’m glad that the members of Congress from Missouri said we won’t vote for it. It deserved to fail. 

“What needs to happen now is, he needs to cover Missouri. This isn’t hard. The Senate has voted for it twice. Do right by the people of Missouri. If you’ve been poisoned by the federal government, you ought to get help with the health care bills that the federal government has caused. I mean, it’s just basic responsibility. 

“The House is almost out of time. They’ve got to act by this Friday or the whole program is going to shut down. Boy, they need to act right now.”

Hawley shared his frustration on Monday when the Speaker’s office withdrew an invitation to speak again in person with the Missouri radiation victims.

“On Saturday, Mike Johnson told these brave Missouri women – radiation survivors – that he’d meet with them in person this week in DC. Today his office said no. Apparently the Speaker is too busy in Europe,” Hawley posted on X. “When will AMERICANS be a priority? RECA expires in 4 days …”

Why was that meeting important?

“When the federal government has poisoned somebody, and you’ve got folks who are hurting, I think it’s important for you as a leader to listen to people,” Hawley argued. 

“You know, for months now Missourians have been trying to get a meeting with the Speaker of the House. Now this guy, he’s the elected leader of the House of Representatives. I mean, he’s not some autocrat who sits in some foreign capital. He is the American Speaker of the House to serve the American people.

“And the fact that he won’t meet with Missourians — won’t meet with them! — I mean, it’s unbelievable to me. And of course, as a Missourian, I take it pretty personally. He needs to meet with the victims. He needs to hear their stories, and then he needs to act. And I tell you what, time is running out.”


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